Windsor

Windsor busker says serious crimes and meaner streets moving panhandlers out

When tarot reader and busker Andrew Nellis first moved to Windsor from Ottawa five years ago, he said he was delighted by the warmth from people on the city's streets, the smiles they would give him as they walked by — but he says the city has become more hostile.

'Panhandlers on the street have also noticed that people have become meaner'

Andrew Nellis says there are fewer buskers and panhandlers on the streets of Windsor because people have become more hostile. 1:36

When tarot reader and busker Andrew Nellis first moved to Windsor from Ottawa five years ago, he said he was delighted by the warmth from people on the city's streets, the smiles they would give him as they walked by. 

Now, year's later, he says those kinds of pleasantries have largely disappeared and the streets have become much more hostile.

"It's become a mean city," he said.

He said he gets comments from the public two or three times a day, telling him they don't believe in what he's doing. Just a few days ago, he said one man threatened to kick over his table.

"Panhandlers on the street have also noticed that people have become meaner. They've received fewer contributions and a lot more people are yelling at them to get a job."

'You don't see the regulars anymore'

As a result, he said, there are fewer buskers working the streets of Windsor now than before because many have left the city.

Andrew Nellis can often be seen reading tarot cards on the corner of Ouellette Avenue and University Avenue.

"What you notice is that people that you used to see everyday or once a week just don't appear anymore," he said.

"You see a few people, but the faces you do see are new and they're generally people who are travelling through. You don't see the regulars anymore."

Shift in crimes

Furthermore, he said, a shift in the severity of crimes downtown have also made many people feel more unsafe now compared to a few years ago.

Andrew Nellis says whenever he works the streets, he typically receives two or three insults from passersby. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

"The downtown could be a little rough, but it was fist fights, not gun fights," he said. 

"It's especially hard for someone who's working on the street, where we rely on each other to keep ourselves safe. And as soon as those numbers start to drop, when you don't have another person busking or panhandling within sight of you, anything could happen."

Union collapse

Nellis originally came to Windsor in the hopes of creating a community centre where people on the street could gather.

Andrew Nellis has been a tarot card reader for years. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

After having previously organized the Ottawa Panhandlers' Union, in 2015 Nellis helped organize the Street Labourers of Windsor — or SLOW — which included panhandlers and buskers. The union has since dissolved.

And after creating a union hall for the organization, now, Nellis is facing an eviction notice from the landlord.

He said that he still hasn't given up on his dream of a community centre and is on the lookout for a new space.

About the Author

Katerina Georgieva is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Windsor. She has also worked for CBC in Charlottetown, Toronto and Winnipeg.

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